Former Tindley CEO Brian Metcalf accused of defrauding charter network

Former Tindley CEO Brian Metcalf accused of defrauding charter network

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The former CEO of an Indianapolis charter school network is accused of defrauding his schools by working with two other people to bill for goods and services that were never provided.

Brian Metcalf, who served as CEO of Tindley Accelerated Schools from July 2019 to December 2022, was charged with nine counts of wire fraud as part of what a federal indictment describes as a “scheme to defraud and obtain money” from an unidentified letter from Indianapolis. school system and another unnamed nonprofit corporation.

Tindley’s board of directors confirmed to Chalkbeat that the charter network was “one of two victims defrauded by the alleged criminal enterprise.”

The indictment alleges that two other defendants, Kimberly Maddox and James Darnell Campbell, billed false invoices to the charter network in collaboration with Metcalf. The two later sent money to Metcalf or made payments on his behalf, according to the indictment, including payments for credit cards, car loans and mortgage expenses, as well as payments to a casino that hosted their family reunion and a construction company that He repaired his house. ceiling.

The federal government is seeking more than $1 million from Metcalf through federal forfeiture laws.

An Illinois grand jury returned the indictment, which it was sealed until December 2023. Maddox and Campbell were charged with four and five counts of wire fraud, respectively.

Metcalf’s attorneys declined to comment on the allegations, while attorneys for Maddox and Campbell did not respond to Chalkbeat’s questions. Court documents indicate that all three have pleaded not guilty.

News of the indictment, first reported by Chalkbeat, follows the indictment of the operators of two virtual charter schools in January, charges that raised questions about the oversight and accountability of charter schools. Another former Tindley CEO also faced scrutiny in 2015 for incurring costly travel expenses as the charter network struggled for cash.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois did not respond to questions about how much money the alleged fraud involved or what services the defendants allegedly billed the school for. But the indictment alleges that the fraud began occurring months after the Tindley network closed and consolidated two of its five Indianapolis schools, citing financial difficulties and low enrollment. The network now operates three schools spanning grades K-12 and serves 975 students, according to state enrollment records.

In a statement to families, the school said it intends to seek restitution.

“In addition to fully cooperating with federal authorities, we retained the Ice Miller law firm and a forensic accounting firm to conduct an independent investigation to understand the facts of the situation, evaluate our internal processes and procedures, and implement additional safeguards.” the board said to parents in a message in December.

Metcalf Helped Make Invoices Look Legitimate, Court Documents Claim

Metcalf was selected to lead Tindley in late June 2019, according to a Facebook post from the school. He previously worked in the Chicago Public Schools.

Court documents say Metcalf and Maddox agreed that Maddox would submit fraudulent invoices to Metcalf, who would trigger payment from his employers: first, an unnamed nonprofit corporation from 2018 to 2019, then Tindley Schools from October 2019 to August of 2022.

After receiving the funds, Maddox would pay Metcalf a portion of the funds through CashApp, or make payments for Metcalf’s personal expenses, such as credit card bills and casino payments, the documents say.

The documents further say that Campbell, a Maddox accountant, also submitted fraudulent invoices from 2021 to Metcalf, who would trigger Tindley’s payment. After receiving the funds, Campbell would pay Metcalf through checks or through payments to his mortgage and auto loan providers, the documents say.

Metcalf is accused of providing language to Maddox and Campbell that would make the invoices appear legitimate.

Through federal forfeiture laws, prosecutors are seeking just over $1 million from Metcalf, as well as property in Chicago. They are also asking for $365,700 from Maddox and $400,000 from Campbell.

It is unclear whether the charges could lead to a prison sentence.

As CEO of the Tindley network, Metcalf earned $190,726 in 2022, according to state public employment records.

Tindley families informed of allegation, charter network says

Metcalf is no longer affiliated with the school.

He resigned on Dec. 14, 2022, after school officials attempted to serve him with a subpoena that the school received on Dec. 6, according to Hilary Buttrick, Tindley’s board president. The board named Sandra Tresselt as interim CEO while she cooperated with authorities and conducted an internal investigation, Buttrick said.

The school was asked not to release any information about the police investigation until it was complete, Buttrick said. The school shared information with Tindley families the day after the allegation was revealed in December 2023.

The school hired a new president, Jonathan Harris, in June 2023.

A spokesperson for the school’s authorizer, the Mayor’s Office of Educational Innovation, said Tindley’s board “notified OEI of the allegations and has maintained communication throughout this process.”

Two schools in the network were renewed before the office became aware of the allegations: Tindley Summit Academy in 2021 and Tindley Genesis Academy in 2022.

Charles A. Tindley Accelerated School will undergo the renovation process this fall.

The federal case has a status hearing set for July.

Amelia Pak-Harvey covers Indianapolis and Lawrence Township schools for Chalkbeat Indiana. Contact Amelia at [email protected].

Aleksandra Appleton covers Indiana education policy and writes about K-12 schools across the state. Contact her at [email protected].